Uggghh! New Year’s Resolutions!
It is a truth universally acknowledged (sorry, Jane Austen 😏), that anyone who makes a resolution on January 1 will abandon it altogether within weeks.
So, why bother?
Perhaps it’s the appeal of a fresh start or a clean slate. Or a nod to our inclination to improve ourselves or our lives. There’s no doubt we all need a little hope or belief in our individual and collective ability to make changes for the better.
Why January 1?
Blame Julius Caesar. He declared January 1 the first day of the year in honour of Janus, the Roman mythical god of new beginnings. The Romans celebrated the new year by offering sacrifices to Janus. And the tradition continues, with most modern-day resolutions involving some form of sacrifice. I suspect therein lies the reason they’re hard to keep.
Yet the date still seems a bit arbitrary.
As legend has it, Janus had two faces which allowed him to look back into the past year and forward to the new year. That suggests a degree of reflection about the changes you want (or need) to make and a measure of planning or commitment to follow through on those changes. Yet meaningful and enduring resolutions don’t miraculously emerge from alcohol-fuelled stupor just because it’s New Year’s Day!
I read an online article recently suggesting that back to school day is the real New Year’s Day for mums. Even though I no longer have school-age children, that totally works for me.
Regardless of when they’re made, my track record of keeping resolutions is as rubbish as the next person. So, this year I’m trying something different – a repurposed, repackaged version. I’ve settled on a theme or mini-mantra for 2019:
Why Before No
Why? I hear you ask. What does it mean?
Well, for as long as I can remember, my husband Ty* has labelled me a pessimist. You know – the glass half empty girl, the killjoy. And one of the things he cites as justification for this label is my tendency to offer ‘No’ as a first response.
Now I like to consider myself a realist. I can lean towards conservatism (and risk mitigation) or moderate optimism, depending on the situation. And I often take a position deliberately to temper the extreme pessimism or optimism of the person (read, family member) I’m dealing with.
I also think I’m encouraging, supportive, good company and open to new experiences. So, you can imagine how thrilled I am to be accused of negativity and tagged as a ‘party pooper’ or ‘spoilsport’ 😠
But in the spirit of reflections en route to meaning, I must admit there is truth in what Ty says. ‘No’ is often my first response. In analysing why that is, I’ve had somewhat of an epiphany.
When I say ‘No’, I usually mean ‘Maybe, but I need more time to think about it’. I’m what Nobel Prize-winning psychological scientist Daniel Kahneman calls a System 2 thinker or a slow thinker. That is, someone who deliberates, considers things, and doesn’t immediately follow her gut. Watch this short video for a summary of Kahneman’s book entitled Thinking, Fast and Slow. It’s fascinating! Side note: Kahneman identifies Barack Obama as a slow thinker so I’m in good company (she says smugly 😊😍)
I can also be indecisive. I particularly fear making a wrong decision when the choice really matters to me. So, I hesitate and try to buy myself time to gather more information and weigh the facts.
Experts say this is not a bad thing as it often makes for better decisions. But deliberation becomes a problem if it goes on for too long. Opportunities can be missed. Choice can be surrendered. Seldom a problem for me, though. I’m married to a fast thinker and rarely afforded the time for leisurely deliberation 🙄
What I do need to work on is my first response. Instead of ‘No’, I want to pause and ask myself: ‘Why would this be a good idea or why wouldn’t it?’ If the answer is immediately obvious, give it. If not, think about it, then give it. I may still say ‘No’ at times, but if I do, I’ll say it with good reason and confidence.
I’m also hoping that the pause and deliberation will help me to become more open, curious and mindful. To consider a situation or experience more fully and approach uncertainty with a positive attitude. And shrug off the ‘Pessimistic Patty’ moniker 😠
Now, I’m under no illusion. My theme is really just a resolution in disguise, with the same risk of premature abandonment. Changing an automatic response won’t be easy. I’ll have to work on it consistently and I’ll need support. Which is why I’m socialising my theme and my goal – to make myself accountable.
Fortunately, ‘Why before No’ has very wide application, so I expect to have plenty of opportunities to practise. And no doubt, Ty will be watching closely, waiting for the chance to call me out when I lapse.
Wish me luck! 🤞
What New Year’s Resolutions have you made? And how are you managing to keep them?
*names have been changed